Sustainable fashion, sometimes referred to as eco-fashion, consists of clothing and accessories made with environmentally friendly materials and produced with the smallest carbon footprint possible. These factors, coupled with adherence to fair trade agreements and adequate working conditions and pay for employees of the company creating the items are the foundation of the sustainable fashion industry. Vintage fashion, or the reuse of fashion items already in existence, is also considered sustainable fashion.
In traditional fashion, the materials that create clothing and accessories often use an extremely high amount of natural resources and artificial chemicals. Sustainable fashion utilizes materials that are either grown using organic practices, easily renewable, or repurposed. Cotton, when grown organically, uses no harsh chemicals or pesticides, therefore limiting the amount of damage done to the ecosystem. Materials such as bamboo, soy, and hemp are abundant and regrow rapidly, making them relatively easy to come by. Textile scraps left over from production can be reused in other articles of clothing, thus maximizing the amount of product created with the smallest use of resources.
The manner in which clothing and accessories are produced is a large part of sustainable fashion. Utilizing solar and wind energy, limiting water usage, and utilizing natural dyes are all part of this sector of the industry. Custom production, while typically more costly, is also considered more eco-friendly than mass production. Fashion made specifically for one person or made in very small amounts greatly reduces waste and the use of natural resources, making it more maintainable in the long run. Limited shipping distances, or items made and purchased locally, can also be factors when determining if a product falls under this category. The less distance a product has to travel, the less resources it utilizes.
Human energy, or the workforce used to create products, is also considered a resource. The Fair Trade agreement promotes honesty, higher pay, and respect among producers, their employees, and their customers. Proper working conditions, such as well ventilated buildings, fair hours, proper breaks, and a livable wage take into account the human aspect of production. Sustainable fashion focuses not only on the care used in working with the eco system, but also on the care taken with the people producing those materials.
Vintage fashion is considered by many to be the epitome of the eco-fashion industry. Clothing and accessories that are already in existence, therefore consuming little to no resources, can be used as is or repurposed to fit into modern fashion. These items, when well made and well taken care of, can significantly limit the need for additional production. Sustainable fashion, whether newly made or repurposed, is becoming a common practice among many smaller companies and designers.